22 November 2017
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Outdoor workers receive up to 10 times the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure as indoor workers. UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, and greater exposure to UV results in higher risk of developing skin cancer. For Jodie Bambridge, a Cancer Council SA SunSmart presentation triggered her life-saving decision to see a doctor.
This is Jodie's story...
My friends say that I’m a happy-go-lucky kind of person, and I’m most at ease when I’m surrounded by nature. I work in conservation and land management. When your work is something that you innately love, it makes for a pretty rewarding lifestyle. I’ve loved every minute of it for the past 15 years, but as you can imagine, I spend a lot of time in the sun. As I would soon find out, I had become complacent about my risk of developing skin cancer.
My dad was the first one to point it out—a spot, between my lip and my nose. He said, “That looks angry, you should get that seen to”.
I brushed it off. I didn’t think that skin cancer would be something that could happen to me. It wasn’t until Diem Luong, Community Education Coordinator at Cancer Council SA, came to present a SunSmart awareness presentation at my work that I realised the gravity of the situation.
I saw an image on screen that looked just like what I had, next to the word ‘cancer’.
Throughout the presentation, I started to become quite emotional. I was confronted with such a visual warning sign and the moment of recognition was so sudden. I remember going through these racing thoughts of anger, denial and even started to cry mid-way through. But by the end of it, I was adamant that I was going to do something about it. The very next week I booked in to see my GP to have it checked, and my suspicions were correct—I saw a specialist, had a biopsy, and then plastic surgery.
Going under the knife wasn’t a cause for concern for me; I went in feeling confident, because I had no understanding of the extent of the operation. When I woke up and looked in the mirror to see 23 stitches, I was devastated. You’re so used to seeing your face in the mirror every day and to see something else entirely is such a shock.
Despite that first reaction, I now wear my scar with pride. I was told that it was a basal cell carcinoma. My scar is a daily reminder to myself to stay vigilant, to do my bit to educate others, and to appreciate the life I’ve been given. When you go through an experience like that, all of your vanity and inhibition just goes out the window. It was my lightbulb moment, when I realised what was really worth worrying about.
I can’t stress enough the importance of education. For myself, it was hearing other peoples’ stories and having the undeniable images in front of me that finally shook me into taking action. My workplace has a very strict UV protection policy, and we always wear personal protection and sunscreen, but you also can’t overlook the importance of checking your body. It wasn’t until Diem’s presentation that I learned about taking care in the sun, particularly when UV is 3 and above. Without educating yourself properly, there’s the risk that you just avoid going outside out of fear, and you lose doing what you love.
The way I see it, now that I have benefitted so immensely from my workplace looking after me, I want to go the extra mile to look after my colleagues. I work with a team of nine, and education goes beyond the work environment. I tell them that all our efforts of wearing hats and long sleeves at work won’t benefit them if they go shirtless to the beach on the weekends.
Any industry that is exposed to sun has a duty of care to engage with up-to-date SunSmart education initiatives. I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know until I saw it. By telling my story I’m hoping to show my gratitude to Cancer Council SA, and to let people know that they’ve got to keep pushing that one stubborn friend like me. If one person goes out and does something differently, then my mission has been achieved.
Cancer Council SA
Workplace presentation attendee
It is important that all workplaces that employ outdoor workers have a UV protection policy in place and provide information to employees about skin cancer risks. Cancer Council SA’s SunSmart workplace presentation is a one hour session that educates about UV radiation, how to identify UV hazards in the workplace, and how to check for skin cancers. It is important that all workplaces that employee outdoor workers have a UV protection policy in place and provide information to employees about skin cancer risks. To book a workplace presentation or for more information about how Cancer Council SA can support your workplace, phone Diem on 08 8291 4168, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sunsmart.org.au.